Ten Items You Should Have In Your Pack for Hiking Season This Summer

First – the winner of the firesteel is…. drum roll please! Wen!!  (Chosen randomly.)  Here’s her comment for identification:
Fire steels! Being fairly new at prepping, I’ve kind of overlooked what to do about starting a fire & I suppose our “strike anywhere” matches and the few lighters we have will sooner or later run out. Having something like that would be wonderful!
Congrats Wen!  Shoot me an email at jarheadsurvivor@gmail.com and we’ll about getting that sweet firesteel in your bug-out bag. ————————————————————————- It’s finally starting to warm up here in Maine, the dreaded black flies have made their appearance, and people are dusting off their packs and getting ready to head back out in the woods on the various hiking trails.  Of course some of us hike and camp straight through the winter, but not everybody is into the whole winter experience.CIMG0371 During the summer I see many people hiking and the only thing they’re carrying is a light sweat shirt or wind breaker usually tied around their waist.  Not all of them, mind you, and that’s great if you’re only going to walk a mile, but I’ve seen cases where that mile suddenly becomes three or they wind up off the path altogether for a few hours and even a few days for the unlucky hiker who gets really lost. When I hike I always have a minimum amount of gear on me.  All of your gear should have multiple uses if possible.  Here’s what I carry at a bare minimum for a summer kit:
  1. A canteen and canteen cup is an excellent low-cost way to have a quart of water and a way to purify it.  You can also get a water filter, which is more expensive, or some water purification tablets.  If you get the water purification tablets make sure you get the kind that have the taste neutralizer so it doesn’t taste like iodine.  Clean water is important, but the iodine chemical doesn’t taste all the good in my opinion.  The only way to make totally sure all the germs in the water are dead is to boil it.  Having said that I’ve used the Katadyn Water filter and never had a problem.
  2. A lightweight rain suit.  This can also double as a wind breaker and when the sun goes down and it starts to cool off it will help you stay warm.  If the bugs are thick it will also help to keep the bugs off.
  3. Lighter or some other kind of firestarter.  You should have at least two different ways to start a fire on you.  I use a Bic lighter and have a firesteel as a backup.
  4. Survival knife – the importance of a good knife can’t be overstated.  I use the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion.  It’s a little heavier than a lot of knives, but it’s a beast in the field and it won’t let you down.
  5. Food – energy bars, GORP, or other kind of food that doesn’t need much preparation is a good idea; however, if you have a heat source such as a camp fire then freeze dried foods, Ramen Noodles, or any other kind of light-weight hiking food is an excellent choice.  If I’m on a long hike I’ll have oatmeal and an energy bar for breakfast (don’t forget the coffee), an energy bar for a quick lunch so I can keep moving, and for dinner I’ll break out a freeze dried meal and live it up.  As a side note make sure you’re drinking a lot of water while you’re moving.
  6. Map and Compass (I’m counting this as one unit) or a GPS.  I use a Cammanga Military Compass for accuracy.
  7. First aid kit – I tend to pack worst case scenario here.  I broke my ankle once hiking on the Appalachian Trail and I don’t mess around with boo-boo kits any more.  Mine is a military trauma kit.
  8.  Flash light or head lamp – if you’ve ever been in the woods after dark you’ll understand this one.  It gets so dark at times that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  Literally.
  9. Wool blanket – this item has many uses and if it gets wet it still has insulating value.  You can lay it out to picnic on, wear it as a cape or shawl with a hood at night  around the fire – it won’t burn like cotton or some of the synthetics out there if a coal lands on it, or you can wrap up in it case you get stuck out over night.  I’ll write a full post on wool blankets later.
  10. Contractor bag – these have many many uses.  You can stuff it with leaves or pine needles and sleep on it, which creates a comfortable bed and vapor barrier.  It can be used to carry water.  Some people say to use a condom, but they’re so fragile I’d be scared to death it would break and lose all my water.  A contractor bag is tough and you could carry a lot of water if you needed to.  (And were strong enough.)  It can be used as a rain coat.  It can be stretched out and used as part of a shelter to keep the rain off.  It can divert rainwater into your canteen.  These bags have many different uses and I suggest you get one for your pack if you don’t already have one in there.
This gear will fit in a small pack and shouldn’t weigh more than 15 pounds total – and probably less. Some of these are to be used during the hike.  You’ll be drinking water, munching on GORP and checking your map as you go, etc.  Other items are to be used in case of emergency.  If you get stuck out over night and it rains you’ll be happy that you have a wool blanket and contractor bag to keep you warm and dry. Keep in mind that a list like this should be tailored to your own needs and location.  You might want to add bug-dope and other things, but keep in mind every little thing you put in costs you in weight. Two of the most important things you can carry with you won’t be found in your pack.  Those important items are knowledge and experience.  Take time to get out in the woods and practice your skills!  I can’t emphasize this enough. What do you put in your pack? Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

38 comments… add one
  • Mike the Gardener May 10, 2013, 8:41 am

    and a whistle … you can get one at practically any store. They are lightweight, obviously easy to use and will be much needed in an emergency situation when calling for help.

    • Jarhead Survivor May 10, 2013, 3:31 pm

      Can’t beat them for signalling! I’ve seen some actually built into the chest straps on some packs. Very handy feature.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. May 10, 2013, 9:03 am

    Cold Steel Spetnatz shovel. HANDY little guy, lightweight and even gives you an impact weapon that does not threaten breaking many laws. Worth while addition.

    I’ll trade the rain suit for poncho. Ponchos are a bit more versatile (ground cloth, tarp shelter) and it don’t rain THAT much down here. Great list though – Thanks!

    • j.r. guerra in s. tx. May 10, 2013, 2:02 pm

      Congratulations Wen !

      And more item worth consideration where I live – a hammock. Those tent models are cool, but very bulky, I’m talking about the smaller (not micro model – I got dumped one time and my brother laughed his donkey off, I need to sell him off cheap! :^) 7′ bed plus model. About a 1/3 of bread loaf sized package – well worth the space.

      Very lightweight multi-use item – chair, rope, shooting support, emergency stretcher (needs more than 3 people for this) and a whole lot more, including sleeping in ground infested bug country where catching some breeze is important for sleeping comfort.

  • riverrider May 10, 2013, 10:01 am

    poncho liner instead of the wool blankie, ultralight tarp or sportsmans (casualty) thermal tarp. 550! either a hatchet or 12″machete.

  • slhaynes May 10, 2013, 11:03 am

    Good post jarhead! As you have chronicled before, some people have no idea about this. I think the folks who read this blog, though, may be a little more inclined (I hope) to consider this stuff before taking a hike.

  • waterboy May 10, 2013, 11:32 am

    Condom isn’t so fragile if you unroll it and put it in a sock before filling it up with water.

  • Leprechaun May 10, 2013, 11:53 am

    A firearm. I take a shotgun loaded with slugs anytime I go hiking or camping. You never know when you’ll run into a moose or bear. Especially in the spring when the bears are waking up. It can also be used for signaling if you buy some 12 gauge flares.

  • Sadie May 10, 2013, 12:29 pm

    What is a contractor bag?

    • Jarhead Survivor May 10, 2013, 12:38 pm

      Hi Sadie,

      A contractor bag is a large, thick plastic bag. You might know them as leaf bags. They’re extremely heavy duty plastic and won’t rip easily.

  • Ernie May 10, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Well I didn’t see it on your list Jarhad, nut I always carry at least 25′ of 550 cord, and I always carry extra socks, many miles of humping with a ruck in my military days and nothing feels better than new socks on tired feet. I also carry a roll of electrical tape and zip-ties, lightweight and multi purpose for both items, these two I picked up from needing them when out hunting, and also read interviews from Army and Marine snipers in Field and Stream magazine, and these were two items they could not do without they said. Love the posts keep it up, always learn something new every time I’m here. Thanks

    • Jarhead Survivor May 10, 2013, 3:30 pm

      Thanks Ernie. Yeah, I carry more stuff then what’s on this list, but if I were going to go with a minimum kit this would be what I’d stuff in my pack.

      I can make my own cordage, but it’s nice to have some you can unroll and use without screwing around with it. I have about 100′ of paracord in my bag.

  • No ME Preppy May 10, 2013, 1:31 pm

    Don’t forget a multi tool and a good pair of gloves.

    I don’t think an ax or machete is necessary for a day hike, as long as your knife is sturdy enough. If you don’t think your knife is sturdy enough, get a new knife.

    I agree with a firearm, but would go with a 22 over a shotgun,. Most of the time bears will run the other way when they smell you. Long before you see them.

  • SouthernPrepper May 10, 2013, 2:08 pm

    What is your perfered day pack to carry your gear in?

    • Jarhead Survivor May 10, 2013, 3:27 pm

      I like the ILBE MARPAT Combat Assault pack. It’s big enough that it can carry a few days worth of stuff, but small enough that you can’t put the kitchen sink in it. Matter of fact I’ll do a post about what I have in it right now and post it next week.

      I love that pack!

      • SouthernPrepper May 10, 2013, 9:30 pm

        Thank you. I look forward to it.

  • Pineslayer May 10, 2013, 3:07 pm

    The list grows and so does the weight. A whistle is a good lightweight add-on, as Mike said. You can get a whistle that doubles as a buckle to fit on your sternum strap. Always at hand and save those precious grams. My lightest pack is about 20lbs. By the time you pack the essentials, emergency gear, and a sidearm, it hits 15, add some more H2O, that new toy that you have been wanting to play with, 20 is there. I got a pack down to 9lbs, not much water, no firearms, no woolie. I felt naked.

    • Jarhead Survivor May 10, 2013, 3:28 pm

      Excellent point, Pineslayer. Every piece of gear adds to the weight.

  • Francesca Steele May 10, 2013, 5:05 pm

    Don’t forget a buddy.

    • Ray May 10, 2013, 7:59 pm

      Now that a girl thing, For me I love my “alone time” in the woods. Todays repacked “Ruck for summer”; Poncho liner, jungle hammock pre-rigged with a poncho rain fly & Mosquito net. , wash kit, mess gear, 550 cord ,fire kit, sox X 5, 3 to 5 days chow with extra coffee & poggie bait, fish kit, clean skivvies , sweater, 1 oz. bleach 1 oz. dish soap, bar soap, straight razor +strop + hone, sewing kit, Big Plastic Bag, WP bag in ruck, 1Qt canteen cup + cover X2- 2 Qt. canteen , 1917 trench bolo, E-tool, 1 gal. ziplocks X 10, 4 bunji cords ,5 tent pegs, 1 SEVA stove(full) with 1 pint fuel , Hone for the knifes– IFAK on the outside of my ruck, small high lumen LED flash light with extra Batt. ,3 light sticks, 1 rescue smoke/flare, LW poncho for me on top of the ruck. gun care kit. 1 box ammo for the “pistol of the day”. I’ll ad ammo- IF -I take a long gun. Mostly I just pack my .357 Mag.

    • irishdutchuncle May 13, 2013, 8:34 pm

      …or at least leave a note. (or file a flight plan/float plan)

  • irishdutchuncle May 11, 2013, 10:59 am

    my “day hike bag” is still a work in progress.
    I went with an Estwing sportsmans hatchet, and a SVEN saw, so far.

    I got a nylon “water bag” from LL Bean. (I don’t know if they sell them anymore)
    condoms are too fragile, plus I don’t want to explain to children or elders. why I would have them.

    the Cold Steel “Spetznatz” that j.r. mentioned, is an interesting idea. (I have a garden trowel, but was thinking about buying another
    e-tool… ) whistle, and head strap flashlight, definitely.

    • irishdutchuncle May 13, 2013, 7:40 am

      the wool blankie may mean that I will need to choose a larger bag than I had originally intended, but it sure makes good sense. (I have the “casualty”, the poncho, and liner also) shopping now for a water filter, tarp, and a backpacking stove…

      • Pineslayer May 13, 2013, 10:42 am

        irishdutchuncle, Stove, my thoughts are KISS. Trangia makes the best little alcohol burner. No moving parts, rugged and simple. the best part of burning denatured alcohol is you can buy it at any hardware store, if you spill it it evaporates with no smells. If wood is your thing, the list is long. I have an Emberlit? really light and packable, but you can build a woodburner yourself, youtube is filled with designs. I like the v-shaped units, built in wind screen, simply built with scrapes around the house. Take a look at the Swiss Ranger Volcano stove too, really cool piece of kit.

        • irishdutchuncle May 13, 2013, 1:32 pm

          Thanks Pineslayer,
          I’ll check them out. Jarhead also showed me a real good one in a video, a few months back.

        • j.r. guerra in s. tx. May 14, 2013, 1:27 pm

          One caution on that Swiss Ranger Volcano stove (if its the same model I have). Aluminum corragated stove body, with aluminum litre corked bottle ?

          It works well, but if you build a HOT fire under this, the weight of water bottle CAN collapse the softened aluminum stove body. Ask me how I know this ? Dumped the bottle of liquid as well, Dagnabit! :^)

          Other than that, pretty convenient way to heat water.

          • Pineslayer May 14, 2013, 1:32 pm

            j.r. Yep the alum doesn’t like really big fire. I usually have a fire going anyway then drop coals down into it outside the fire ring. I have also upgraded the alum bottle with a SS unit. I suppose for weight sake nothing beats just the SS bottle all by itself.

  • Wen May 11, 2013, 1:02 pm

    Thanks for the firesteel – I look forward to trying it out!

    The idea for items to take on a hike is great – we don’t hike much, but I think the list you’ve included would make a good start for a basic bag just to keep in the trunk of the car. There’s enough in there to keep one or two people on the go for a while, yet it’d be light enough for one person to tote around if needed.

  • Mountain Rifleman May 11, 2013, 3:41 pm

    Jarhead I don’t go anywhere without my M1 Garand and 4 bandoleers of ammo. H harness, pistol belt, 2 canteens with cups and my long knife, the one that fits the Garand and then I look at wool and stuff.

    Never know what will happen on a hike.

    Semper Fi

    • Jarhead Survivor May 11, 2013, 3:56 pm

      Sounds like you’ll be ready for it whatever it is!

      • Ray May 12, 2013, 11:45 am

        I love My NM M-1, but the old girl is heavy with 196rds on board, But yeh if I was packin a long rifle that will be the one.

  • GoneWithTheWind May 12, 2013, 10:11 am

    I would go with a light compactable sleeping bag in preference to a wool blanket takes up 1/4 the space and 1/4 the weight.

  • T.R. May 12, 2013, 11:44 am

    + mini 30 with a folding stock .

  • Mountain Rifleman May 12, 2013, 7:12 pm

    Ray, I’ll pack ammo for you any day. Black tips if you want. 192 rounds in 4 bandoleers (13.5 pounds including en-bloc clips) and 8 rounds in the piece. I’m getting old, but he’s not heavy, he’s my brother and he’s always there when I need him and I’ve needed him. I can’t do as many pushups as I used to, but I still do them daily. Butts and muzzles too. Keeps me young and grinning at the kids, some of whom can’t do a dozen pushups and they’ve never seen an M1. Pity.

    To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “Let your M1 Garand be your constant companion on your walks.”

    Semper Fi

    • Ray May 12, 2013, 9:16 pm

      Yes Sir! When I take the Garand out my normal load is a 10 pocket belt (mod) to carry 14 clips+1 in the rifle is 120 rd. add to that two bandoleers (96 rd.) for 216. Normally if I have the Garand belt on I also carry my 1911a1 +three mag’s. That rig also has my K-Bar, USMC IFAC,(old stile) 1 canteen and my wire cutters. And YEH! I love the 163gr. M2-AP. I have a bunch of 173gr NM but I mostly run it in the M-1903 mk1 ‘s.

  • teabag May 18, 2013, 1:27 am

    If you put two condoms together, they’re pretty strong. They do feel kinda weird when they’re full of water, but you can put them in a sock, as mentioned before, or make a bag out of something, to tone down the jiggling. Or, you can carry water in one of those bags designed to line crockpots. They’re exceptionally strong plastic, and heat-tolerant to boot.

  • Tim May 18, 2013, 3:20 pm

    Great list of items. Although it’s not the 10 essentials, people would be far better off with your recommended kit than nothing.. It’s amazing how many hikers and campers get lost and end up suffering or dying because they didn’t properly prepare.

  • Ethan Bruce May 24, 2013, 3:05 pm

    I am planning for going hiking… so I looked for the things I need to carry. Here is really a good list.


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